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DRAFT Press statement for release on Wednesday 24 July 2013

Villagers prosecute Council for obstructing public highway

Residents of Long Rock are prosecuting Cornwall Council for obstruction of a local footpath which crosses the railway near the Mexico Inn. Today representatives of Friends of Long Rock Mexico Crossing lodged the necessary information at Truro Magistrates Court to have a summons issued. Our aim is to have the obstruction removed. The summons will be addressed to Cornwall Council. The particulars name Peter Marsh, Interim Corporate Director Environment, as the man responsible. The Council's continued closure of the Mexico crossing is unlawful. Since their temporary closure order expired on 21 June, their barriers on the crossing have been an unlawful obstruction of a public right of way. This is a criminal offence under section 137 of the Highways Act 1980. Their attempt to cover themselves by erecting another temporary closure notice is no defence because the law does not allow temporary closures to last for more than six months. The facts: The Council first closed the crossing on 21 December 2012 using a temporary closure order under section 14 Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984. When this expired on 21 June the Council left the physical barriers (padlocks, chains, fences, etc) in place. On 25 June we sent them an email politely pointing out their oversight. On 26 June they erected another notice on the crossing which announced it would be closed to 26 December. On 28 June we wrote pointing out that the proviso in section 15(8) Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 clearly limits temporary closures to six months. Their reply dated 9 July ignored this point. We have asked for a meeting with Peter Marsh but he has ignored us.

Background: The Council are fiddling about with temporary closures because they are having trouble deciding whether to close the crossing permanently. The crossing was closed in December in response to a letter from the Coroner following the inquest into a death on the crossing. On 15 March the Council received a formal application from Network Rail for permanent closure.

We have made a strong case opposing this. The crossing is safe and has been safe for 160 years. Its closure exposes pedestrians to far worse dangers on the alternative routes across the railway. We have supplied a mass of evidence to prove this and we have seen nothing to contradict it.

Delays and Dangers: The Council have been dithering for weeks. They had three months to reach a decision on Network Rail's application within the time allowed for the temporary closure. We understand that the officers concerned did their part. But their report has been held up by Peter Marsh and this is why it has dragged on beyond six months. The report has been sitting on Marsh's desk for the last six weeks. Unfortunately this has coincided with the start of the school holidays and the best period of good weather we have had in ten years, both of which have aggravated the problems caused by the closure. More and more people are risking life and limb to reach the beach People using the vehicle crossing (the Council's preferred alternative route) have been climbing over the gates rather than waiting for the trains to pass. We did warn that people were unhappy with the inconvenience of this route but we did not expect this. Many pedestrians, including children and pensioners, are willing to risk being killed or maimed on the road to Marazion (the other alternative route), which has no pavements and two very dangerous blind corners. More and more people are choosing to ignore the closure notice and climb over the barriers on the crossing itself.

Every day that passes makes the situation worse. Whichever route people choose to get to the beach they face dangers far worse than anything faced when the crossing was open. The Council's closure is both illegal and dangerous. It is a disaster for the village. It is an accident waiting to happen. And when it does happen the Council will have to bear the moral responsibility as well as the legal liability. Not only will they have blood on their hands, their negligence will cost taxpayers thousands of pounds in compensation.

FOLRMC contact details: Rob Nance, Chair - (07 973 369 968) Mike Bott, committee member - (01 736 711 353)

Cornwall Council contact details Highways: Peter Marsh, Interim Corporate Director Environment - (0300 1234 100) - he reports to the Chief Executive

Lauren Wing, Personal Assistant to Peter Marsh - (01 872 326 932) (Fax: 01 872 322 580) Jeremy Edwards, Highways Network Manager - (01 872 327 878) Matt Stribley, Traffic Manager - (0300 1234 222)

Legal: Vanessa Davis, Legal Officer - (01 209 614 030) - she reports to Richard Williams Richard Williams, Head of Legal, Democratic and Procurement Services and Monitoring - (0300 1234 100) - he reports to Michael Crich Michael Crich, Corporate Director Resources (includes legal services) (0300 1234 100) - he reports to the Chief Executive

Press: Tricia Hewitt, Communications Manager (with responsibility for media relations) (01 872 322 186) - she reports to Carole Theobald Carole Theobald, Head of Communications and strategy - (01 872 322 572) - she reports to the Chief Executive

Chief Executive: Paul Masters, Interim Chief Executive - (0300 1234 100) he reports to the elected members

Elected Members: John Wood, Chairman of the Council - (01 726 891 393) John Pollard, Leader of the Council and Portfolio Holder for Reputation and Performance - (mobile: 07 967 272 808) Bert Biscoe, Portfolio Holder for Transport and Waste - (01 872 242 293)